On October 25, 2017, I testified before the Florida Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education in order to speak to the impact Hurricane Irma had on our schools, students, and community. I wanted to share our CCPS storm story with you.

    It has been more than six weeks since Hurricane Irma ravaged our community and the storm's effects are still impacting our schools today. CCPS would like to share our story of the hurricane through a presentation of pictures and narrative via the links below. This presentation will highlight how your school system and the community prepared for, lived through, and continues to recover from the Hurricane.

    The loss and damage sometimes seems overwhelming. A second grade teacher in Everglades City was heartbroken to learn that one of her students would be leaving the school in a few days. His family’s home was destroyed and his parents could not find post-storm employment or housing. As a result, the family made the choice to relocate to California. We still have many students and families without homes, in fact, 383 students have registered as homeless with Collier County Public Schools since Irma and the number continues to grow each day. The effects of this storm will challenge parts of our community for a while. We have heard that Immokalee families may go another 8-10 weeks without employment due to the delay in the planting cycle. Part of moving forward in our school community is responding to the fact that many families cannot.

    Even though some news is grim and we have families and staff whose lives are forever changed, we continue working diligently and cooperatively with the community to help families.

    • We opened a warehouse at iTECH to store supplies for Immokalee families. The requests to the individual schools were extensive and we needed a central processing area to relieve our schools from that responsibility.

    • The staff at Everglades City School is still working to cook for the community and store home essentials and food supplies all over campus.

    • Naples schools are helping Immokalee schools by producing snack packs for students to eat over the weekend. For example, Sea Gate Elementary staff and students produced 1100 snack packs for students at Pinecrest. Even Pinecrest students are making snack packs for their classmates.

    • Administrators from Avalon Elementary and other schools went door to door to visit families that were devastated by the storm.

    • The Facilities Department did an amazing and rapid job getting our schools cleaned, repaired, and opened in order to provide a sense of normalcy for our families.

    We are so #CCPSProud of all the teachers, administrators, and community members who continue to work to support students in both the classroom and at home.

    As you may have seen, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, visited our community. Secretary DeVos toured Everglades City School and Pinecrest Elementary to see the recovery first hand and commented “...the administrators and the leadership in these schools, they are getting things done and acting immediately and with urgency. The last thing we want to have happen is to have anything bureaucratic get in the way of what they have been able to accomplish... It’s heartbreaking to see the devastation and the damage, but it is also encouraging to see how these communities have rallied around one another.”

    Collier County families have certainly rallied to help each other! The support locally and from across the country has been phenomenal.

    We are thankful for all of your efforts! To learn more about how Hurricane Irma impacted Collier County Public Schools, please click here to read our presentation or click here to watch the video of the presentation to School Board Members.

    Kamela Patton

    Dr. Kamela Patton

    Tel (239) 377-0001